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Archive for December, 2009

Happy Holidays from Barrie Summy, Tish Cohen, and Therese Walsh

December 17, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

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The greetings continue with another recipe and favorite movies, music…even books!

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Barrie’s Butter Tarts

BarrietmbGrowing up, we spent most weekends from May to October and a month in the summer at our cottage. Besides the regular activities like water skiing, swimming, board games and reading in the sun, my family loved a trip to Don’s Bakery in Bala, Ontario for delicious, mouth-watering butter tarts.

Now, I live in San Diego, a land bereft of butter tarts, and I’ve been forced to learn to bake them. Because I’m not particularly gifted in the kitchen, I generally only bake butter tarts once a year. And that would be at the holidays.

So, a food that was a summer tradition for me as a child has become a holiday tradition for my children.

BUTTER TARTS
First, I start with a tart shell. Here’s the recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound cold butter, in small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, process the flour, salt and butter quickly. Through the funnel, add the egg yolk and ice water and process until the dough balls up. Wrap in foil and place in fridge for 20 min. Then roll out, cut circles with a cup and press into mold. Prick bottom of tarts with a fork and bake unfilled at 425 for 7 min. (The recipe says 12 min., but that was too long.)

The butter tart recipe I use is from a Mennonite cookbook: Food That Really Schmecks.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons butter (not margarine!), melted
1 Tablespoon water (or less if you use a large egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg. Add brown sugar. Beat again. Add remaining ingredients. Fill shells 1/2 full. Bake at 450 for 15 min. (I only baked for 12 min., so start checking the tarts early).

The first trick is to make sure the filling stays slightly runny. So, don’t overcook.

The second trick is to not eat too many at one sitting.
Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12)

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Tish’s Best Holiday Entertainment

TishtmbBest Christmas CD: Charlie Brown Christmas music by Vince Guaraldi.
Best Christmas book: Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher.
Best Christmas movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.
Best Christmas show: A Charlie Brown Christmas. The only trouble is, it’s way too short.
Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA)

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Therese’s Glorious and Classic Choices

ThereseWtmbI’m going to choose something unusual but glorious as my fave song: O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen. It’s a choir piece, sung a capella, with haunting and breathtaking harmonics.
Book: The Night Before Christmas.
Movie: A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)

Happy Holidays from Alicia Bessette, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, and Kristy Kiernan

December 16, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

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‘Tis time for tradition and today two authors reflect on their favorite holiday movies, while another asks Santa to grant her wish.

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Alicia Believes It’s a Wonderful Life

AliciatmbMy favorite holiday tradition and favorite holiday movie are one and the same: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.

As with many Frank Capra films, “It’s a Wonderful Life” strongly resonates with me. I love the idea of a community coming together in support of a good person or a good cause, and that theme is echoed in my debut novel, Simply from Scratch. Whether such group support truly happens in “real life,” or whether it’s an ideal we strive for, I think modern storytelling could stand to see more of that sort of unity.

Something else that really speaks to me is George Bailey’s internal struggle. He’s reluctantly rooted in his hometown, seemingly trapped by the obligation to carry on his father’s legacy of bettering Bedford Falls. And yet George dreams of traveling the world and achieving greatness. Like Dorothy Gale, his turmoil and longing are so blinding, he doesn’t see the gifts all around him.

Every December when I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” — as if upholding tradition — my tears come at precisely the same two moments: near the beginning, during ten-year-old George’s tearful pledge to the despairing pharmacist, Mr. Gower; and of course, at the end, as the people of Bedford Falls stream into the Bailey’s living room, singing and emptying their pockets — and especially when George’s brother, war hero Harry Bailey, bursts through the front door to great fanfare. Gets me every time.
Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming in August 2010)

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Wendy Enjoys a Judy Garland Christmas

WendytmbThe Wizard of Oz, the classic film made in 1939 and starring Judy Garland is not about Christmas and has no yuletide scenes. But it is one of my favorite Christmas movies. In the days before DVDs and plasma screen TVs, The Wizard of Oz was shown on television every year during the holiday season. This was the only broadcast and its airing was a big event. My family watched it together for years. As time went on, we’d say we were going to skip it. How many times had we seen that yellow brick road or heard “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” sung by adult midgets made to look like children? But then we’d turn it on and get sucked in again, as if seeing it for the very first time, and watch it until Judy Garland proclaimed, “There’s no place like home.”

Judy Garland also plays a role in another of my favorite Christmas movies and a favorite Christmas song. Meet Me in St. Louis, made five years after The Wizard of Oz, is a charming film about the four beautiful daughters of the well-to-do Smith family in the early 1900s set against the backdrop of the St. Louis Fair. The sisters are devastated when their father is set to be transferred to a new job in New York, forcing them to say good-bye to their beloved St. Louis. Knowing that it is the last Christmas in their hometown, Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to her little sister Tootie, played by Margaret O’Brien. While the lyrics are rather upbeat as with most Christmas songs, they take on a melancholy tone under the circumstances, rendering the performance poignant and wistful, which is sometimes the way we can feel during the holidays, despite the cheeriness of the season.
Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation)

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Kristy’s Wishlist

KristytmbI only have one thing on my holiday wishlist this year: a permane
nt place to lay my head and decorate my tree. Against all odds, we’ve sold our home, and we’ll be closing on December 16th. Despite everything you read in the papers and hear on the news, it’s not as easy to find a home as you’d think. Now, if you want a 720 square foot 40 year-old-home with no air conditioning (it’s been stolen), appliances (they’ve been stolen), countertops (they’ve been…you get the idea), with a woman who raises geese on one side (have you ever heard the noise that 300 geese can make?), and a family of all-terrain vehicle/swamp buggy fans on the other…well, those are available in spades. Come on down and invest in a few. But the good stuff? Those go in about 20 minutes to cash buyers, though the bank won’t tell you that for 6-8 weeks, sometimes longer.

I’d like to be in a new home for Christmas. But it’s beginning to look like our Christmas decorations will be spending December 25th in storage, and we’ll be…somewhere, I assume. So, Santa, reach in that big red velvet bag and whip out a house for us, won’t you? (I believe, I believe, I believe.)
Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010)

[Note: Today is December 16th and Kristy and her husband do have a home. Yes it’s a temporary one but only for the time it takes to build their new house! Always believe…in Santa.]

Happy Holidays from Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Randy Susan Meyers

December 15, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

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‘Tis the time to believe and today’s authors celebrate holiday joy with a movie and a brisket recipe.

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Lauren and the Grinch

LaurentmbChristmas isn’t my holiday, religion-wise, but I love “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Every time that grinchy heart grows and the Whos start singing, I tear up. So I’ve been tearing up at least once a year for decades. Even before I got married, I told my mom we needed to do something one last time together. I don’t know what she was expecting, but she was surprised when I pulled out a video of the Grinch. OK, I’m a sap.
Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 Series for children)

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Randy’s Passover Brisket Turned Christmas Meat

RandytmbOne of my favorite once-a-year dishes is apricot brisket. It’s an old family recipe passed down from a cousin long ago. I make it every year for our Passover Seder, and it’s so good that my years-long vegetarian daughter always makes an exception and takes a few bites each year and she always spreads the sauce on her kugel.

Many non-Jewish families have joined us over the years. Often it was a friend (who is a caterer, thus exciting me when she asked for the recipe) and her sons. Kris started serving it for Christmas, giving it a second identity, when her son’s crowned it with a new name, and it went from being the Passover brisket at our house, to being the Christmas Meat, at theirs.

I so enjoy knowing that my family’s special brisket has an alias, as though my family recipe has joined the CIA.

Here we can call it Christmas Brisket. It’s a rich slow-cooked recipe, simple to make, using dowdy ingredients that turn into a beautiful to the eye, incredible to the mouth dish that fills the home with good smells. It’s also forgiving and open to change.

Christmas Brisket

3-5 lbs brisket
1 -2 cloves minced garlic
3 onions
Butter
12 oz ketchup
4 apricot rolls
6 oz water
1/2 cup brown sugar

Sauté the onions in garlic and butter. Mix ketchup, water & sugar. Season the
meat with salt. Pour the soft-cooked onions, and then the gravy, over the meat. Cover the meat with 2 apricot rolls.

Cover the pan (with foil or other cover) and bake for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees.

Turn the meat and cover with the 2 remaining apricot rolls. Cover the pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove the cover and bake for an additional 45 minutes. When done, the meat should be soft and break apart easily. Let it sit before slicing.

(You can easily substitute apricot jam, when it’s difficult to find the apricot rolls (usually found in Middle Eastern specialty stores) though the rolls provide a richer brisket. Sometimes I use dried apricots along with the jam.
Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters coming January 19, 2010)

Happy Holidays from Ivy Pochoda and Carleen Brice

December 14, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

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Welcome! ‘Tis the season to celebrate and, for their greetings, two authors offer their favorite holiday recipe and songs.

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Ivy’s Spice Cookies

iVYtmbI lived in Amsterdam for seven years. The Dutch have a separate Christmas tradition called Sinterklaas that takes place on the 5th of December. For the weeks before Sinterklass and Christmas the entire country seems to smell of these old fashioned spice cookies. They are best made with an old , wooden cookie cutter.

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour (200 g)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (100 g)
7 tbsp butter (100 g)
2-3 tbsp milk
3 tsp speculaaskruiden or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
The finely grated zest of half an orange
A sprinkling of extra flour to dust the work surface.
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OPTIONAL
1 egg white, beaten
Extra brown sugar
Flaked almonds

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease a baking sheet. Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead. You should be able to shape the dough into a ball without it sticking to your hands. Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour. This allows the spices to work their magic.
Flour your work surface and press your dough into an even, flat layer. Using a cookie cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking sheet. Brush with egg white and sprinkle some brown sugar and flaked almonds on top of each cookie. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until you can see that the almonds are caramelizing and the cookies are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Makes about 2 dozen speculaas cookies.
Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing)

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Carleen Is Walking in a Winter Wonderland of Music

CarleentmbI love Christmas music. I got an iPhone in September and already have Pandora Christmas stations! If I go into a store in October and see Christmas merchandise, I get a little grumpy. But I wouldn’t care if they started playing Christmas music on the first day of fall.

It’s a tie for my favorite Christmas carol between “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (especially the Chrissie Hynde version). The lyrics “through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow” always make me think of my loved ones who have passed away and how short and fragile life is. My other favorite is “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” I love it for the lines that go:

Later on, we’ll conspire,
 As we dream by the fire

To face unafraid,

The plans that we’ve made,
 Walking in a winter wonderland.

That’s a beautiful sentiment and it really inspires me every year. But I could go on. What would Christmas be without Nat King Cole or Elvis or the Chipmunks or Bootsy Collins, for that matter? And you don’t have to have to be Jewish to love Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song”! Basically, if it’s holiday music, bring it on.
Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters)

An Invitation for You

December 10, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Uncategorized

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Open here

RSVP: Not necessary, in fact bring along a friend or two!

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Announcement: The winners of Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky are: Alicia and Randy. Congratulations! Please contact me with your mailing address as soon as possible.

The Revealing of Eileen Cook

December 09, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

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To know Eileen Cook — even if it’s limited to virtual reality — is to know a witty, wise, and most thoughtful author/friend. As one of the Founder Debutantes in that first Class of 2007 Ball, she debuted with the romantic comedy novel, Unpredictable, in a voice and style that could make anyone smile. Since Eileen understood that Young Adults need to smile through the challenges of adolescence, her second book, What Would Emma Do? became her YA debut and earned this praise from Meg Cabot, Grand Dame of the genre: “Sassy and sly and sweet all at the same time, this book made me laugh out loud.”

Eileen’s next YA offering, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood will be released January 5, 2010 and a full presentation is scheduled to be posted here on January 4, 2010.

The author’s official one sentence bio tells, Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs.

Yet please read on…for Eileen Cook is most revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Blessed, Creative, Laughter, Content, Friendship, Family, Books/stories, Busy

Q: What is your motto or maxim
A: I’ve always wanted to have a motto. The closest I can come up with would be Carpe Diem- Seize the Day. I believe those who win in life are those who aren’t afraid to fail spectacularly. I would much rather try something and have it not go well than to not have ever tried at all.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: A good book, a hot cup of tea, a warm dog in my lap and my husband nearby to share a laugh.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: My greatest fear is losing someone I love. While I understand no one can live forever, it would be nice if we could keep all of those near and dear to us with us forever. My irrational fear is spiders. I have been known to do a high pitched squealing dance move while flapping my arms in the air when spotting one. Once, one horrible night, I woke up and turned on the light to go to the bathroom. Swinging, mere inches from my face was a spider. If I hadn’t woken up it would have continued to lower itself until it was TOUCHING MY FACE. It could have crawled into my nose and laid spider baby eggs in my sinus cavity. (shudders) I still can give myself the whim whams when I think about it.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I’m a homebody. I love Vancouver. It is a beautiful city, we’ve got mountains, oceans, and great restaurants. What more could any girl want? Not to mention the Olympics will be starting soon and I’ve got my husband and dogs here. Let’s hear it for home for the holidays! However, I’m betting that I want to stay home is a boring answer, so my second favorite city is London England.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My mom. She has this wonderful sense of peace about her. Even when things are going crazy around her she’s able to exude grace and calm. She’s taught me that difficult things can be handled by taking things one step at a time, surrounding ourselves with supportive people and taking the time to laugh once and awhile.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Oh I have several that I use in conversation and cut out where I can in my writing. The two I see most often are:
– Technically as in: “Technically, it doesn’t count as stealing if you plan to give it back.”
– It is what it is : I’m not sure when I started this Zen pithy quote, but I say it alllll the time.

Q; If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Only one? I’m torn between my desire to be able to sing and being coordinated. I love to sing, but trust me when I tell you that I should never, ever, ever sing aloud in public. However, in the confines of my car I really belt it out. I’m also a total klutz. I’m always falling down stairs, tripping over dust, bumping into things and dropping breakable objects. While being able sing would be a dream come true, not hurting myself or others might come more in handy.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: This is a hard question. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with my writing, but I think my greatest achievement might be my marriage. Not only are we still married after 15 years, but we actually still like each other. I’ve known my husband since I was 19! It is easier to grow apart than it is to grow together. We work hard to make sure things stay on track and I’m lucky to have him as a best friend.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m a worrier. If worrying was an Olympic sport I would take the gold. I can worry about things that haven’t even happened yet and may not even be physically possible. All this worry and anxiety can eat up valuable time and emotional energy. I have made some progress; I used to worry a lot about what other people thought. Now I’ve come to realize that I don’t actually care what many people think of me and in fact, many of those people aren’t even thinking about me to start with.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My sense of humor. I’m able to find the humor in almost every situation. If you can laugh, even when things seem their darkest, then they are just that bit easier to manage.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I’ve made my share of mistakes, maybe more than my fair share, but I don’t think I would take any of them back. Some of my most spectacular screw ups have led me down different roads that all added up to where I am now. It’s the age old problem with time travel. If I went back and changed one thing, how would that change ripple out and what else would be changed?

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I think being a dog in a well loved home would be pretty good. Lots of time to nap in the sunshine, no job, regular walks, not a lot to worry about, belly rubs and the occasional chew toy. I look at my dogs and think they a good life. The downside would be the food is boring dry kibble.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: When I’m really laughing, not a chuckle, but a full on laugh, I make this loud snorting sound. I used to hate it and be embarrassed by it. Now I figure, it’s part of my charm.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: As someone who is nearly terminally uncoordinated, I admire anyone who has athletic talent. I have been known to fall over while running even thought there is apparently nothing to trip me, it’s like my feet just forget what they’re supposed to be doing.

If I could meet any athlete, I think it would be interesting to talk to Jesse Owens. He was the African American Olympic athlete who won the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin games. His winning was a slap in the face of Hitler who believed in the supremacy of “superior races.” I would love to know how he was able to focus with that kind of pressure going on.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who don’t listen.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading! I love books. We’ve recently moved and I almost couldn’t believe how many books we had in the house. I usually have them spread out in different rooms so I don’t notice how many there are until they are all in one place. My parents are both huge readers and growing up there were weekly trips to the library, a tradition I’ve kept up on my own. I can look through my bookshelves and remember what books I was reading or authors I had discovered at different times in my life. Books have the amazing ability to help you make sense of something happening in your life or to take you away from real life all together.

I actually get anxious if I’m trapped someplace without a book. I have one with me at all times. This is why I carry a big purse.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Being a writer! As someone who loves books, I feel so very lucky to have a chance to tell my own stories. Plus- what other job lets you make stuff up all day while wearing your jammies?

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty, Kindness, Sense of humor

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Warm bread, fresh from the oven.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: I can’t pick five- too much depends on my mood, but I love Christmas music, Broadway show tunes, 80’s rock (yes, I know it’s cheesy), Jazz (Norah Jones and Diana Krall are two favs) and anything that you can dance to.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Picking five books is even harder than picking five songs! Impossible! There are just too many good books. One of my favorites as a kid was The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and as an adult a favorite is A Prayer for Owen Meany.

To enjoy Eileen’s company on a regular basis visit her Blog and become a friend on Facebook.

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Announcement: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky. To enter, please leave a comment on this post by this evening at 7:00 p.m. EST. The winners will be chosen from a random drawing and announced here in tomorrow’s post.

News from Our Debut Authors

December 08, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: News

The busyness of the publishing world might slow down a bit this month, yet it does not come to a halt. In fact four of our debut authors offer the following news:

~ Joëlle Anthony who will debut with her YA novel, Restoring Harmony, on May 13, 2010, announces the sale of her second YA book, THE RIGHT AND THE REAL.

~ Alicia Bessette’s debut novel — coming August 2010 — has a new title: Simply from Scratch.

~ Melanie Benjamin will debut on January 12, 2010 with her historical fiction novel, Alice I Have Been. The book made the January 2010 Indie Next list at #3. Independent booksellers love it…you will too.
[Note: Technically “Alice” is not a debut. “Melanie Benjamin is a pseudonym for Melanie Hauser, who has published 2 contemporary novels.]

~ And the Writer Mama Book Club: December Selection is The Last Will of Moira Leahy by debut author Therese Walsh. If you’ve already read this intriguing and enchanting “adult fairy tale,” please consider joining the online discussion where questions about the book will be posted throughout the month.

Announcement: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky. To enter, please leave a comment on this post by Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. EST. The winners will be chosen from a random drawing and announced here in Thursday’s post.

Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky

December 07, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

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According to the Random House Author Spotlight on Barrie Summy, she and her two younger sisters grew up following their parents’ rules. And the author admits:

“One of the toughest and meanest rules was about books. The mother and father divided books into two groups: meat-and-potato books and dessert books. The rule went like this: You could read as many meat-and-potato books in a row as you wanted, but you had to read at least one meat-and-potato book to get to a dessert book. Nancy Drew mysteries were dessert books.The smartest and bravest and most beautiful daughter (that’s the first daughter, in case you’ve forgotten) loved Nancy Drew mysteries more than anything in world. She vowed to her sisters that she would grow up and write a Nancy Drew mystery. Maybe even two, in a row. She might even write a meat-and-potato book, but she’d definitely start with Nancy Drew. As it turns out, she grew up and wrote I So Don’t Do Mysteries starring thirteen-year-old Sherry Holmes Baldwin. And discovered it was much tougher to write a book than to read ten meat-and-potato books back to back.”

Nevertheless Barrie prevailed and her second Sherry Holmes Baldwin book, I So Don’t Do Spooky, (for middle-grade readers) will be released tomorrow, December 8, 2009, just in time for the holidays which are of course known for their sweets and desserts.

Now are you’re wondering how the author convinces reluctant Sherry Baldwin to give in and do spooky? It’s basically the same reason why she did mysteries — for her mom, a policewoman, who died in a drug bust well over a year ago, and is now a ghost able only to make contact with her daughter. Mom is still on duty, though, trying her best to solve crimes. Since that’s a bit difficult from the spirit world, she enlists Sherry’s real life resourcefulness, determination, and bravery as they become a mother-daughter team. And, while their first solving of a mystery had a more general feel, their spooky adventure is much more personal. Read Sherry’s explanation in this synopsis:

Someone’s out to get Sherry’s stepmom. . . .Can she save her before it’s too late?

Did you know that the main campus of the Academy of Spirits is at a Dairy Queen in Phoenix? Me either. Until now. Some weird stuff has been happening to my stepmother, Paula, and the Academy has asked me, Sherry Holmes Baldwin, to get to the bottom of it. They think someone’s trying to hurt her.

I really don’t want to get involved — my life is way too busy. Josh and I are celebrating two blissful months of togetherness. And my best friend, Junie, is finally showing a teeny bit of interest in clothes and makeup after years of brainiac behavior. But being that my mom is a ghost and all, me, my brother, and my dad rely on Paula a lot. So it’s not like I can just ignore what’s going on. Especially since my mom is competing at the Ghostlympics. If she comes in first place, she earns five minutes of Real Time.

And that means I’ve got to get involved in a creepy, freaky mystery.

But . . . I so don’t do spooky.

Clear, isn’t it, from a typical 13-year old? Now Sherry must help her mom to protect her stepmom from harm. For more clarification, there’s the I So Don’t Do Spooky Book Trailer:

Although it’s been a year since I So Don’t Do Mysteries debuted, I So Don’t Do Spooky picks up only two months later. Within that time frame, though, Sherry has matured to the point of accepting her stepmom. In fact that’s the primary backstory for the book as Barrie explains:

“Part of the trick, I think, in writing a good mystery is to give the detective a strong reason to solve it. A reason more compelling than mere curiosity. There are a few solid reasons for Sherry to buy into a case involving her stepmother. The Ruler is now family PLUS the Academy of Spirits assigns her the case PLUS her mother wants The Ruler safe and able to care for her children.

“As time goes on, Sherry comes to appreciate The Ruler more and more. That said, The Ruler is a parent figure and ALL that entails to a tween! 😉 Hmmm…..and I do like that the reader often sees the truer, gentler side of The Ruler, and it’s Sherry who’s playing catch up.”

Having read the Advanced Reader Copy, what this fairy godmother liked was that a young adolescent could work through her feelings of losing a mother, gaining a stepmother and understanding that — on different levels — they’re both there for her and it all makes sense in a quirky way. Yet Sherry isn’t a quirk character.

Instead Barrie has created a very believable 13-year old who would rather shop than study, stereotypes her peers, and spends far too much time flirting with and kissing her boyfriend Josh. While I’d rather have all of the above left out of the novel (why perpetuate this behavior?), it does allow the reader to accept Sherry as “real” despite her paranormal activities. Also, to be fair, the author redeems her heroine who ultimately gets her priorities straight.

I So Don’t Do Spooky is seriously fun with lessons of life to be learned from a mystery. And, while Barrie Summy’s parents thought of Nancy Drew books as dessert, Sherry Holmes Baldwin books are tasty treats with substance — the perfect choice for gift-giving to any young girl in your life!

Announcement: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky. To enter, please leave a comment on this post by Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. EST. The winners will be chosen from a random drawing and announced here in Thursday’s post.

The Muse in the Mirror

December 03, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Throughout the fall The Divining Wand has asked its authors: What does your Muse look like? Or what does s/he sound like? Or what does s/he feel like? Muse(less)? What inspires you to write? While all the responses have been fascinating and varied, it’s now time to put the Muse to rest with these final thoughts.

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been coming January 12, 2010):

“Well, my muse for Alice I Have Been was the photograph of Alice Liddell herself, at age 7, taken by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). But I really don’t think I have a muse; I have a great curiosity about many things, and I follow that until it leads me to the next amazing story I just have to write.”

Eve Brown-Waite (First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life):

“I don’t think I have a muse … and I’m starting to feel left out. I was inspired to write my book because I JUST HAD TO TELL THAT STORY. IT WOULD NOT LET GO OF MY LIFE until I did. Plain and simple. I have felt at other times like I have JUST HAD TO WRITE an essay, a political commentary or (don’t laugh) a letter to the editor, as well. This urgency comes not solely because I feel strongly about something, but more because I feel like I am seeing it a way that others are not. I guess my muse (such as it is) is just feeling like there is something I just have to say!”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA):

‘He’s purple and hairy. He sulks quite a bit, if I’m being honest. He has a naughty chair. Or what does s/he sound like? Like the adults on the Peanuts. Believe me, that gets old…fast. Or what does s/he feel like? His feet feel like leather.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“My muse (or muses, perhaps?) is more the voices in my head–characters sort of start talking or muttering, sometimes even shouting, until I know I have to sit down and write. When I’m on a roll (and the muse is happy, I suppose) I feel kind of itchy-twitchy until I can get back to the WIP.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA):

“I’m embarrassed to say that my Muse looks like me. How vain is that? But seriously, if I don’t drive me, I don’t know who will.”

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010):

“I’m not sure that I have a muse, in fact, I definitely don’t. I think my muse is more myself, at least that’s what inspires me to write. What I mean by that is that I enjoy taking snippets of my emotional map – for example, maybe wondering about my what-ifs, exploring my feelings about my past and how it’s led me to where I’ve become, – and putting them into my characters. This is true for both my protagonists in my first two books, and to an extent with my third protagonist with my upcoming book. I like exploring women who maybe aren’t taking full responsibility for living complete lives and seeing if I can transform them. So that’s really my inspiration – I always feel like I learn a little bit about myself as I write.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“Is it too glib to admit that my muse looks an awful lot like a good cup of coffee?”

Is there a question you’d like the authors to answer? If so, please email it to diviningwand (AT) gmail (DOT) com

What Our Authors Read Once and Again

December 02, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

When choosing books as great holiday gifts, or even for yourself, more than likely the tendency is to select a new title. Yet what about considering the classics, the keepers — the ones our authors return to again and again.

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been coming January 12, 2010):

“I really do reread my books all the time. I only toss out books that I know I’ll never read again, and that happens rarely. I’d have to say the Provincial Lady series by E.M. Delafield are probably my most reread books of all time.”

Alicia Bessette (All Come Home coming in August 2010):

“I recently reread Little Women and loved it. I just finished reading a phenomenal book, The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, by Liz Jensen — it’s inventive, entertaining, and challenging — and my first instinct was to immediately return to page one and savor it a second time.”

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010):

“I reread books by Agatha Christie and Jane Austen all the time. Great books are best savored again and again.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

‘I reread quite a few books; which ones and when depend upon what I feel I need at a given time. I’ve reread BEL CANTO, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, and LOLITA, to name the more prominent of them.”

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“I re-read Pride and Prejudice every year. My favorite!”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me coming March 9, 2010):

“There are too many to count. You can pick up so many more details and nuances upon a second reading.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“I often reread “Houses of Stone” by Barbara Michaels and “Naked Once More” by Elizabeth Peters (which are both pen names of the same author, actually). They are fun, suspenseful novels with feminist heroines, each story with a writer at the heart of its mystery.”